Political and Economic reasons

The end of the Second World War left Europe in pieces; Literally, politically and economically. France and Germany lay at the core of the devastation caused by years of battle, other countries lay scarred and even unoccupied states such as Britain still suffered heavy losses of life and money. Politically the continent was on the floor. Germany and Italy obviously had a large outsider status due to Fascism, The US and her allies occupied western Europe, and the Russian army controlled the Balkans and eastern Europe up to Berlin.

This created the main ideological divide in Europe, splitting it into a capitalist west and a communist east. The most divided part of Europe lay in the centre, with Germany split into East and West, with both Russian and US forces fully occupying. German recovery represented a threat to Stalin's Russia, and an essential mode of European recovery to the US. Due to action and reaction from both sides of the country, military presence was stepped up in the years after the war to boiling point. This culminated in the creation of the Federal republic in the west and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the east in 1949.

With Europe in this state and the price of two world wars evident to all Europeans, it was evident that cooperation was needed to remove the causes of war. In 1949 the council of Europe was set up. Although this was a body with no governing power, a statute was signed which recognised the need for like-minded countries to work together. This was one of the first signs of Europe pulling itself back together again, not for ideology or money, but for necessity, to make sure that such horrors could not be repeated.

The US pushed with the diplomacy of this, as they saw European reconstruction as vital to their own economic and political interests. Two years before, the US had instigated the Marshall Plan, a huge recovery program for western Europe in which roughly $13billion was put in. Although progress had been made with the council of Europe, there was still a very clear ideological and military threat to the west. To combat this, the US, Canada and ten west European states signed the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). An attack on one would represent an attack on all.

While Europe seemed to be even more strongly dividing itself, there were still great economic needs that had to be addressed. In 1952 Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet initiated what was to be the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The linking of these industries was crucial for economic recovery, and for the first time in Europe national sovereignty was abridged for a greater purpose. Another key purpose of it was to improve Franco-German relations, which were non-existent due to the occupation. The countries that signed up to the ECSC were France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries.

These small states have always been instrumental in European integration and had strong federalist sentiments, from a backlash against the resurgence of nationalism. Amongst all the western unity, the US remained a heavy presence in Europe, and, at th advent of the Korean war, placed great pressure on West Germany to re-arm and become signatory to NATO, much to the distaste of France. By 1955 West Germany had joined and Russia with her satellite states had formed the Warsaw Pact. Europe had organised itself into a straight divide down the middle.

Despite this West Europe was still trying hard to unite and taking steps towards integration. In 1955 in Messina, Italy a conference was held between the leaders of the ECSC to try to work together to unite Europe. They believed that certain fusion of economies would be beneficial to all, the first ideas of a common market. In 1958, as the cold war continued, with its frigid centre and flashpoint peripheries, the treaties of Rome were signed and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the European Economic Community (EEC) were established, thanks largely to pushing from the Benelux countries.

On January 1st, 1958, the six ECSC states became the EEC. The most impressive effect this had was to 'bring back' West Germany and Italy into Europe. This answered the French 'German question'. German economic strength was not feared like military strength, but was seen to aid its neighbours. The formation of the EEC was a delicate balance of economic necessity and ideological concern. As the EEC took shape, in the early 1960's Britain wanted a piece of the action. In 1963 France, however, vetoed Britain's entry into the EEC fearing there was not enough room for another large country in the organisation.

Again in 1965 French President Charles De Gaulle blocked the introduction of majority voting, saying that he wanted a "Europe des patries"1, not a supranational body. De Gaulle's sentiments were felt elsewhere however, as he also believed in independence from the superpowers, as any felt that Europe was being used as the board for an ideological game. It was at this time in the sixties when one of the superpowers, the US, began drawing its forces and presence back from occupied Europe. The American public began to view the EEC as a rival, while the Germans strongly resented US occupation.

In 1969 the EEC was re-launched and by 1973 Britain joined Ireland and Denmark to turn the six into nine. By now the post war boom had ended and economic strength and unity was seen as crucial to survival. The seventies saw ideological and economic steps towards wider integration on both the east and west. In 1974 there were leadership changes in Spain, Greece and Portugal. This was a big ideological change as these new democracies emerged from their respective authoritarian systems and was a gain to the western capitalist ideologies.

In the east dissent was beginning in some communist states. Poland was know for its 'little economic miracle'2 but this was due to industrial equipment bought with credits from the west. This caused Poland to become Europes leading national debtor, causing prices to be raised and living standards to go down, much to the dislike of the polish people. Small groups arose elsewhere, such as Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia. These groups would one day become opposition parties to the communist rule.

Another economic crisis in 1973 caused a depression throughout Europe, when the Arab/Israeli war took place and caused Oil prices to rise sharply. This began to stagnate the ailing Russian economy. In 1985 a new Russian president, Mikhail Gorbachev was sworn in. He was a liberal and reduced the Russian occupation of satellites, thinking that liberal politics were what the allies needed. All it did in reality was fuel the fire for the emergence of opposition parties, which sprang up in most Russian held states.

The key state lost was the GDR, when, in 1989, the civic forum took control and ended border controls. This led to a mass migration from east to west Germany, making east Germany no longer viable for the Russians and within a year the wall and communism were gone from the GDR and the Czech and Balkan states. In 1990 Germany was once again reunited, a truly pivotal moment for the once broken Europe. This was followed in 1990 by the collapse of the Soviet Union. It broke down economically and this became "irreversible in the course of a few… months between October 89 and May 90"3

In 1992/3 there was a collapse of the monetary system in the EEC but by 1993 states fulfilled the Single European Act of 1985, allowing for true movement of labour and capital. The EEC was reborn as the EU and 3 more states joined, bringing the total number up to 12, however the bloody conflict in Yugoslavia highlighted the EU's military impotency. In 1995 the 12 became 15 and it was clear that the world was changing greatly. Globalisation and modern technology means that big businesses have forced a certain level of integration upon the world.

The first decade of the EU saw the creation of a single common market with internal tariffs abolished and externals placed. The EU is now the worlds largest single trading block and in 2004 a staggering ten more countries will sign up, bringing the total member states to 25. More interesting still is that these states are all the old soviet states. The membership will mean a final end to European division and completeness to the process of integration that has taken place since 1949.

I believe that although much of the processes of integration that have been outlined here were due to economic musts and ideological deterrency and promotion. The seeds that have always been sewn for European stages of integration have been sewn out of a basic necessity, a necessity to right what has been done wrong before, to never allow horrors of the past to take place again.


  • Hobsbawm, E Age Of Extremes; The Short Twentieth Century. Abacus, 1995 Keylor, W R The Twentieth Century World. OUP 1996 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/